Trump knew that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in 2016 election because 'Putin told me'
The idea that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. election was never a matter of a couple of obscure officials authoring an op-ed, or someone putting mean statements on a Facebook page, as some Republicans claimed during House Judiciary Committee hearings. The claims that Trump has made about Ukraine involve an absolutely ludicrous conspiracy theory with dozens of moving parts and an element of time travel. There has never been the least scrap of support for these claims, despite all the claims of Rudy Giuliani and a worldwide hunt by William Barr, but Trump—and increasingly, other Republicans—have been pushing these ideas. And now we know the real source.
As The Washington Post reports, Trump seized on the theory that Ukraine conspired with Hillary Clinton to fake a break-in to the DNC, feed documents to WikiLeaks, blame Russia, and lay a trap for Trump. He became adamant that this was the case— after meeting privately with Vladimir Putin.
Trump’s encounter with Putin took place in 2017, when the two got together on the sidelines of the G-20 meeting after Trump made a series of apparently frantic gestures across the dinner table to signal his eagerness to meet with the Russian autocrat. At the time, the fact that Trump suddenly began spouting a ludicrous, unsupported conspiracy theory that exonerated Putin and insisted that Ukraine was behind the theft of Democratic emails got a bit lost in the wash—because everyone was focused on how this meeting came just as Trump was making daily changes to his explanation of why the top members of his campaign team had met with Russian operatives in Trump Tower.
But now that Trump has been impeached over his attempts to force Ukrainian officials into backing an unbelievable conspiracy theory that includes a nonexistent server, claims that a U.S. company is secretly controlled by Ukraine, and genuinely, really claims that Hillary Clinton threw the election to set Trump up for an inevitable impeachment, it seems worth asking again: Where did Trump get such an illogical, inane, and simply impossible idea?
The Post reports that one former senior White House official had the answer to that question. That official said Trump stated “explicitly” that “he knew Ukraine was the real culprit because ‘Putin told me.’”
It’s easy enough to understand why this particular encounter between Trump and Putin and its relationship to the Ukraine story have been missed to this point. That meeting came just one day before The New York Times broke the story that Trump had personally dictated the lies that Donald Trump Jr. provided about the Trump Tower meeting, straight from Air Force One. So reporters were focused more on whether Trump’s desperate tableside hook-up with Putin was meant to coordinate claims that that meeting was really about helping Americans adopt Russian orphans.
But there was at least one clue that more than Trump Tower had been on their agenda. Shortly following this no-notes, no-U.S.-interpreter get together, Trump announced that the U.S. and Russia would be working together on cybersecurity. Apparently Trump was so convinced by Putin’s claims about security firm CrowdStrike and fake Russian hackers that he was ready to turn America’s security over to the Kremlin.
That Ukraine-did-it theory, direct from Vladimir Putin, is the same claim that Republicans such as Devin Nunes and Matt Gaetz defended in House hearings. It’s also the theory that Republican Louie Gohmert was spouting on the House floor when House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler rightly commented on Gohmert’s use of Russian propaganda.
The Post based its article on interviews with no fewer than 15 former White House officials—all of whom Trump will now declare fake. Or maybe traitors. First, he needs to check in with Putin for some advice.